On the Trail: Arbaney-Kittle blossoms | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: Arbaney-Kittle blossoms

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” The Arbaney-Kittle Trail outside of Basalt isn’t what I think of as a great wildflower hike.

Rather, it’s where I go for a quick aerobic workout ” and by quick, I mean I trudge upward over the rocks and dirt for an hour, which is how long it takes me to reach the overlook into the Fryingpan Valley that is the turnaround point for most hikers on the AK.

In turning around, by the way, one gets a great view of snow-capped Mount Sopris and Capitol Peak.

This trail, which I hike pretty regularly, is where sweat drips off my brow while I remind myself that my legs and lungs are getting stronger, even if they feel like they’re getting weaker by the minute.

But for a few weeks at this time of year, Arbaney-Kittle transforms from red dirt and (at least in my mind) nondescript vegetation into a downright spectacular hike. The high country is still locked in snow, but this lower-elevation trail is hitting its peak in the wildflower department.

It sent me scrambling for my wildflower identification book back at home, but I quickly recognized bright-orange Indian paintbrush and spires of lupine in nearly-full bloom. Bluebells and larkspur (I think), in deep purple and a pale violet, were out in abundance.

There were clusters of phlox (I think) and that large, white poppy-sorta-looking flower with the delicate, tissue-like petals that open up close to the ground for a brief period at this time of year.

There was also a pincushiony purple ball, growing close to the ground, and pink flowers that were so tiny I almost missed them entirely, spreading out among the green in an open spot on the trail.

And, there were a bunch more that I couldn’t remember by the time I was back at home, paging through my copy of the National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Wildflowers.

I guess I should take the reference book along with me, but I don’t know if it would help. I rarely find the flower I think I’m looking at in the color photos, and I never understand the text’s descriptions of bracts, broad petioles and palmately cleft leaves. It’s all botanical mumbo jumbo to me.

I guess I’ve concluded it doesn’t matter what kind of flowers they are. They’re a delight to see. It sounds corny, I know, but their appearance brightens my countenance and lightens my step.